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Letter from Lady Pethick-Lawrence to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

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From Lady Pethick Lawrence
Fourways, Gomshall, Surrey.
May 26. 1946.

This is our May 26th Beloved! & I woke early with thoughts of you, & my first action was to go through all your letters since you left me, beginning with with† March and continuing to your last lovely letter of May 18 {1}—up to your direct message of May 23 {2} transmitted to me & received by post from Mr Clausen {3} yesterday May 24. It was a joy to receive that little message & realize that we were so close together in thought, as indeed we are now. My memory goes back to 45 years ago—how very definitely & clearly certain moments in ones life stand isolated, as if they were moments ever-living, regardless of the passing of time. I can see you now clearly as you were then, & realize your gesture as you gathered me up in your arms, & there we were in the old arm-chair in the little room at Somerset Terrace. And now we are together again in a different way, & there are still chapters to be written to our life.

I gather from the broadcast last night as well as from the Times yesterday morning that you have reached that deadpoint of seeming frustration, that we knew had to come. I entirely realize the truth of that word spoken by Maud—“it is not I that am doing anything, but He”[.] {4} In other words I have realized for some time past, that only to a very small & limited extent do we as individual[s] shape events. Events shape destiny. Yet there are moments of definite crisis, when one individual act can influence results for generations—such as the outstanding act of Campbell Bannerman when against popular outcry, he gave the promise of citizenship to the defeated Dutch in S. Africa. He was not as the world estimates character, a “great” personality; yet he did a great deed, inspired by a great conception of democracy.

I wonder if you will read the leading article in The Times of May 24, on Egypt, in which Bevin’s policy in Egypt is unequivocally defended against Churchill’s attack. I was amazed. No such wise & far-seeing defence & justification have I seen in any Labour Paper or Magazine. For some time indeed ever since the Labour Party took office, The Times has been our best advocate.

I found the two letters I mentioned in my last letter, when I had to get the post, without enclosing them—one from Dorothy Plowman, which reflected the atmosphere of the home which we had made together here, & one from E. K. which reflected the impression made on one whom we had known since she was a child of two years old. For these letters as samples of many others that I receive daily, I feel truly thankful when I review our life together.

Nevertheless I do not want you to think that I have not had my small personal problems to deal with, during your absence, as you have had major world problems to deal with. Some of these personal problems we shall have to investigate & deal with together when you return. I have come to some quite definite conclusions with regard to them, & that definiteness you will like, as it is indefiniteness about details that you find it hard to deal with. I have been obliged to take a long-term view of the future, & can now see it as a whole, & after consultation & agreement with you, I should like soon after your return, to proceed to plan & to act. Meantime all is well & I give thanks from day to day, mainly for your health, but also for the health & well being of all here at the present time.

Charlie Marsh is spending the weekend here, & is occupying your room. She asked to come & is always very happy here. Yesterday in late afternoon we had a most perfect & heavenly ride in the car, to Ranmore Common, which I have not seen for 7 years: from the approach near Dorking to the return through East Horsley & Clandon. We were really entranced by the loveliness from beginning to end. We have saved petrol & shall have enough when you return for a day’s ride to the coast.

We have had a spell of cold winds (not frost) & grey skies, without rain. Vegetation is at its height, but no growth of seedlings for the past 2 or 3 weeks because of drought & cold wind. Nevertheless the flowering season is some weeks ahead of time (due to the very warm & sunny April)[.] We have begun bottling the gooseberries & making jam. With great love & with constant thoughts & blessing,

Your own.

I wonder whether an air-flight to the Caves of Ajanta will be possible during the Wait of Congress & Muslim Verdict.

—————

{1} PETH 6/171.

{2} PETH 6/173?

{3} The name is indistinct.

{4} This remark, made by Maud Coote at Easter, had been mentioned by Lord
Pethick-Lawrence in his letter of 18 May (PETH 6/171).

† Sic.

Letter from Lady Pethick-Lawrence to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

Transcript

June 3. 1946 {1}

My Dearest,

Do not let the delay in your return, give you any idea that you are missing the English summer. May 12 was the last summer day we have had. April was like June. The last 3 weeks have been March, & still, day after day we have gales of wind & storms of rain—sometimes sleet & hail. I read in the Paper today that in June the barometer has been lower than any day since Christmas. Not that we have had much frost. We have a good crop of soft fruit & apples, though no pears or plums. The violent wind tosses the trees & plants, like a storm tosses the waves on the ocean, while the clouds darken the sky. I hope it will be better weather for the Victory Parade {2}. No doubt interest & enthusiasm will work up during the next 5 days, but so far I find no sentiment expressed except disillusion. Even leading articles & Churchill’s speech have to recognize & attempt to deal with public apathy. Guildford & other towns too have refused to co-operate. The public feel that it is an exhibition of futility & waste. London has been much disfigured & spoilt for Londoners. It is not a happy time, & the real tragedy is brought home to people like G. G. {3} who could get no bread on Saturday, because she was too late in going out for it, & no milk because of the strike.

I have had a cable from Madeleine that she is scheduled to arrive in Southampton Dock next Wednesday, June 6th. She will take the train from Southampton to Woking, & on to Guildford where I shall meet her with the car. She has a transitional visa, & can only remain a short time. Probably she will stay at Fourways over Whit Monday, & we shall all go to London on June 11 & 12. I have avoided London for some weeks. There is much to do & see to here. I am giving much attention to the garden, and the little staff here needs a good deal of handling.

I have had very few official invitations during your absence[.] But I had one to meet F. M. Smuts {4}, and as I could not go, I wrote to salute him, and have had a charming personal reply in his own hand writing. I received a letter from Mrs Price Hughes yesterday, to tell me that she is constantly with us both in her thoughts. She is 93, & her writing is as good as ever. We had a very pleasant visit from Stuart & Ruth, though it rained hard all the time. There are 5 of your wild roses out today. I wish I could send you one. Farewell my darling. Keep well & serene, & enjoy the present moment. All here are well. May has arranged to spend a week with Dorothy to make room for Madeleine, should you have been able to get back. You remember we have booked rooms in Ventnor from June 24—July 8. May will stay with Tom & there will be a room for you at the week end or whenever you want it at my Guest House or at the Hotel near Trewartha. If the soft fruit ripens just then, Lydia will want to overlook the bottling, although she can show Violet & leave it to her after one or two experiments.

No food of any kind must be wasted.

And so again God be with thee.

Your own.
Patz

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{1} The address printed on the writing-paper is 11 Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn, W.C.2, but the letter was clearly written at Fourways.

{2} The national Victory Parade, to be held on 8 June.

{3} Probably Gladys Groom.

{4} i.e. Field Marshal Smuts.

Letter from Lady Pethick-Lawrence to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

Transcript

Confidential

Feb. 18. 1947.

Dearest,

Last week in London there developed trouble between Lydia & the staff there. As usual I played her cards badly—but realizing this, in order to save me & you any disturbance, she went to the War Office on Thursday {1}, was very warmly welcomed there & obtained priority for the next Boat train for N. Africa leaving London on March 6th & also a promise of a job under the War Department immediately on her arrival there. She could not get the opportunity or courage to tell me until yesterday. On my acceptance of this solution, she is today clinching the arrangement with the War Office.

You are the only person who has come near to any understanding of the very real & deep bond that exists for ever between Lydia & myself. It defies all analysis. There is nothing of a physical nature or demand about it. The nearest analogy is that of the bond between the “Seeing Eye Dog” & his blind Master. In my almost complete deafness which prevents me from hearing the phone bell in my own room, & with my increasing difficulty in movement, Lydia is my irreplac[e]able support. I shall miss her desperately. There are many who love me devotedly, but there is nobody else, whose supreme delight & one object in life are to be with me to foresee & supply every smallest need. I know all her faults pathologic & psychic, and I know all her extraordinary & unique qualities. She has played her cards very badly, (as I tell her) but such things as tampering with my correspondence are far removed from possibility & so are other faults of which she has been suspected & accused. Over-devotion to our interests had led to ill-judged action. Her latest decisive move has been taken solely with a view to our interest. It is of such dual natures that the stuff of tragic drama is made. They are born, fated. The rationally-minded are quite incapable of dealing with them. But for the strain of Mysticism in you, you would have attempted in all good intention to put an end before now to the situation. As it is, she has put an end to it, herself. Her only condition is that if I were ill—mortally ill—she should be sent for. That is my wish also. I feel that I could not die in peace without her hand in mine.

Emmeline

It is one thing to meet these conflict-problems in Greek Drama. Quite another thing to confront them in flesh & blood. I thank God for all I have read & all I have experienced, which have enabled me so far to avoid fatal error.

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{1} 13th.

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